In Fresno, CA, I knew I wanted to do only one thing:
To see the Hmongstory 40 exhibit.
I could stay in exhibits like Hmongstory 40 until someone kicks me out, but I only had a short time. And in that time, I fell into silence, into tears, and into moments of humility.
Piav rau nej los tej zaum yuav piav tsis tag kuv txoj kev tu siab thiab kev zoo siab.
So below, I’ve shared some moments with you, where I submerged myself in an exhibit that goes far deeper than the textbooks in our classrooms and further than stories our parents have told.
I was here. 12/28/15
Amongst unidentified Hmong soldiers and a Bryan Worra Thao poem titled, “The Last War Poem.” Though I’ve never met him, I grew up knowing the name, Bryan Worra Thao. So I knew I had to stop and sit with his incredible work one more time.
“A program of genocide against the Hmong” made me stop in my tracks.
It’s no surprise this quote was featured in the exhibit. I watched a Hmongstory 40 interview with Nou Vang a few months ago, and this quote is exactly what I took away from the interview.
In Hmong, Nou Vang said,
“Dab tsi tuam hla hiav txwv, yog cov me tub rog uas tuag tag lawm. Lawv muab lawv tej pob txha tuam choj rau peb hla hiav txwv nawb. Hiav txwv dav li dav, nees nkaum plaub xuab moos thiaj hla tau.
Kom sawv daws cim tej lus no thiab cim tej ntsiab lus no kom meej meej es…Muaj ib lo lus uas kom nco txog cov tub rog tej roj ntsha no kom thov sawv daws mus hawm lawv cov npe thiab hawm lawv tej roj ntsha uas puas peb sawv daws hla tuaj lub teb chaws no.”
This image is haunting. I knew The Plain of Jars looked nothing like it did when I walked on it in 2012, but I couldn't have imagined this.
I didn’t know the American people were reading about us before we even came to the US. I really appreciate this archive from The Washington Post, December 23, 1971.
I overheard a niam tais telling her son that she wore this necklace thaum ub. So I asked her if it was heavy. Without hesitation, she said it was very light, and depending on how big it was, you could just wear one instead of three. She also said those who were nplua nuj wore coins or daim phiaj in the back, but she never wore any.
I think this is what those before us wanted all us Hmong children to be like. Forever.
Music from Hmong Californians played a big part of my childhood. I am grateful to have seen influences and colleagues such as Ashley Thao, Whyteshadows, The Sounders, & Touly Vangkhue featured in this special section.
Thank you, Hmongstory 40, for taking me back to my roots and bringing me home again. Nej ua rau kuv nco tias kuv yuav tsum tsoo tiag tiag, ua lub neej raws li kuv siab ntshaw thiab raws kuv txoj kev npau suav thiaj li tsim nyog peb Hmoob lub kua muag. Ua tsaug ntau rau pab Hmongstory 40 team, volunteers, & sponsors.
If you saw the Hmongstory 40 exhibit, what did you think? I’d love to hear about your experience!
Until next time…